When high-profile gun-related tragedies happen, people and lawmakers across the country demand stricter gun laws at the state and national levels to help combat increasing gun violence. But, those demands are most often unmet with actual change, especially when it comes to policy.
In Michigan, however, Democrats last week succeeded in pushing through long-sought after legislation that establish protocols in hopes of keeping firearms out of the wrong hands. The move came exactly two months after three students were killed in the Michigan State University mass shooting, and more than a year after four students were murdered in the Oxford High School shooting -- a huge win for advocates of gun violence prevention.
But even though the policies are a huge step for a state Legislature previously unwilling to move on gun reform, Michigan is still “missing most key gun safety laws” needed to address the violence, according to organization Everytown for Gun Safety. The nonprofit, which is the largest gun violence prevention organization in the U.S., says Michigan lacks dozens of the 50 most important gun safety laws.
And while policy is not the only solution to the nation’s every-growing gun violence problem, experts say it certainly is an important one.
How Michigan ranks
As of 2023, Michigan ranks 24th in the nation for gun safety, with gun violence far outweighing the strength of the state’s gun laws, according to Everytown. The organization says the state has only 12 of the 50 “most important” gun policies -- though legislation signed into law on April 13 would make that number 13.
Michigan’s gun violence rate per every 100,00 residents is rated at 15.4 by Everytown -- which is reportedly higher than the national average. The state’s “gun law strength” has been given a 25.5 composite score out of 100. In all, the state is categorized as “missing key laws.”
To compare, these are the stats for the states ranked first, second and third for their gun safety laws:
- No. 1 - California: 86.5 gun law strength; 9 gun violence rate
- No. 2 - New York: 81.5 gun law strength; 5.4 gun violence rate
- No. 3 - Hawaii: 79.5 gun law strength; 4.8 gun violence rate
On the other end, these are the states ranked in last place for their gun safety laws:
- No. 50 - Mississippi: 3 gun law strength; 33.9 gun violence rate
- No. 49 - Arkansas: 4.5 gun law strength; 23.3 gun violence rate
- No. 48 - Idaho: 5 gun law strength; 16.3 gun violence rate
The organization’s research shows that states with stronger gun laws have lower rates of gun violence, though there are some caveats. Their graph below shows the correlation between gun violence and gun laws in each state.
Gun laws Michigan has
These are the 13 gun laws Michigan does have that Everytown deems essential (as written by Everytown):
- ✅ Background check and/or purchase permit: Requires background checks for handgun purchases at point of sale and/or for permit to purchase. (Note: This was just expanded to include background checks for all firearm purchases in Michigan.)
- ✅ Concealed carry permit required: Requires any person who carries a concealed firearm in public to first obtain a permit.
- ✅ No carry after violent offense: Bars concealed carry by people with assault or other violent misdemeanor convictions.
- ✅ No guns mandate on college campuses: Does not force colleges and universities to allow concealed carry.
- ✅ No guns in K-12 schools: Does not have a law allowing carry in K–12 schools by staff or other permit holders.
- ✅ Felony prohibitor: Bars gun possession by people with felony convictions.
- ✅ Hate crime prohibitor: Bars people from having guns after a hate crime conviction.
- ✅ No law enforcement officers bill of rights: Does not impede efforts to hold police accountable for excessive force and other misconduct.
- ✅ Violence intervention program funding: State budget includes funding for community violence intervention programming.
- ✅ Authority to deny gun purchase for public safety: Allows officials to deny sales if buyer poses a danger.
- ✅ Lost and stolen reporting: Requires gun owners to notify law enforcement if their guns are lost or stolen.
- ✅ Sales records sent to law enforcement: Requires all handgun sale information be recorded by officials.
- ✅ (New) Secure storage or child access prevention required: Requires that firearms be stored locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition in certain circumstances.
Gun laws Michigan doesn’t have
These are the remaining 37 gun laws Michigan does not have that Everytown deems essential (as written by Everytown):
- ❌ Extreme risk law (also known as red flag laws): Allows law enforcement (and often family members) to petition for a court order to temporarily prevent someone in crisis from accessing guns. (Red flag legislation is currently being voted on in the Michigan Legislature.)
- ❌ No “Shoot First” law: Does not have a Shoot First law in place. (Meaning: Michigan does have shoot first laws, also known as “Stand Your Ground” laws, in place.)
- ❌ Assault weapons prohibited: Bars purchase of certain assault-style weapons originally designed for military use.
- ❌ Consumer safety: Requires new handgun models sold in the state to have childproofing features.
- ❌ Ghost guns regulated: Regulates ghost gun parts, ensuring they cannot be sold without serial numbers and a background check.
- ❌ High capacity magazines prohibited: Bars purchase of gun magazines larger than a prescribed size.
- ❌ Microstamping for new handguns: Requires new handgun models sold in the state to include microstamping technology.
- ❌ No special immunity for gun industry: Does not have a legal immunity law in place.
- ❌ Crime gun tracing: Requires officials to trace all guns recovered at crime scenes, using the federal tracing system.
- ❌ No guns at state capitols and/or demonstrations: Blocks the public carry of guns on state capitol grounds and/or political protests.
- ❌ No guns inn bars: Blocks the concealed carry of guns in bars.
- ❌ Open carry regulated: Regulates how guns may be carried visibly in public, either requiring a permit or else barring open carry altogether.
- ❌ Strong concealed cary authority: Allows officials to bar concealed carry by people who pose a danger.
- ❌ Emergency restraining order prohibitor: Bars domestic abusers from having guns while subject to short-term emergency orders.
- ❌ Fugitive from justice prohibitor: Bars gun possession by fugitives.
- ❌ Gun removal program: Requires officials to identify and seek removal of illegal guns.
- ❌ Mental health prohibitor: Bars gun possession by people who have been involuntarily committed or found to be a danger to self or others.
- ❌ Minimum age to purchase: Requires handgun buyers to be 21+ and rifle and shotgun buyers to be 18+.
- ❌ No gun purchases after violent offense: Bars gun purchases by people with assault or other violent misdemeanor convictions.
- ❌ Prohibition for convicted domestic abusers: Bars domestic abusers from having guns after a misdemeanor conviction.
- ❌ Prohibition for domestic abusers under restraining orders: Bars domestic abusers from having guns while subject to restraining orders.
- ❌ Relinquishment for convicted domestic abusers: Requires domestic abusers to turn in guns after a misdemeanor conviction.
- ❌ Relinquishment for domestic abusers under restraining orders: Requires domestic abusers to turn in guns when a restraining order is placed.
- ❌ School threat assessment teams: Requires threat assessment programs to identify students at risk of violence.
- ❌ Stalker prohibitor: Bars gun possession by convicted stalkers.
- ❌ Funding for services for victims of gun violence: Issues targeted solicitations to use federal Victims of Crime Act funds to assist victims of gun violence or for gun violence intervention.
- ❌ Local gun laws allowed: Does not preempt towns and cities from making their own gun safety policy.
- ❌ Office of violence intervention: Has a dedicated office for gun violence prevention.
- ❌ Police use of deadly force standard: Bars deadly force unless necessary to prevent serious bodily injury, does not make exception for felony suspects fleeing arrest.
- ❌ Police use of force incident data collection and reporting: Requires law enforcement agencies to collect and report data on use of force incidents.
- ❌ Qualified immunity limited: Limits qualified immunity, which acts as a legal shield for police officers accused of civil and constitutional violations.
- ❌ Charleston Loophole closed or limited: Ensures gun sales can’t proceed while a background check is still ongoing.
- ❌ Dealer license required: Requires all gun dealers to obtain a state license.
- ❌ Mental health record reporting: Requires or allows officials to report prohibiting records into the background check system.
- ❌ Notification of failed background checks: Requires notice to law enforcement when a prohibited person tries to buy a gun.
- ❌ Training required to purchase guns: Requires certain gun buyers to take a training course before their purchase.
- ❌ Waiting periods: Requires gun buyers to wait a prescribed time before completing a purchase.
Michigan voters want gun reform
In a survey of Michigan voters taken after the February mass shooting at Michigan State, voters overwhelmingly said they support proposed gun reform policies.
As of March, nearly 88% of Michigan voters support universal background checks, while 77.5% of voters strongly support such legislation. More than 77% of voters who identified as Republicans support the background check law, including 77.8% of Republican gun owners.
About 80% of Michigan voters support passage of safe storage gun laws. Nearly 75% of voters support implementing red flag laws.
It is not often that states pass gun reform legislation, even after mass shooting tragedies, despite public outcry. But both Democratic and Republican Michigan voters and gun owners support amending gun policies in the wake of the Oxford and Michigan State mass shootings.
Experts: Policy can help address gun violence
When it comes to policy, there is no one piece of legislation that can wholly address the issue of gun violence at the state or federal level -- at least, not yet. Experts say there are various causes of gun violence, and so there are various potential solutions that can be (and are being) implemented to address the issue.
Though gun violence is a growing issue throughout Michigan and the nation, researchers have only recently begun to look into the causes of the issue and how it can be solved. A lot more research is needed and will continue, but experts have offered some potential solutions so far, including policy changes.
One option that has shown promise around the U.S. is the establishment of red flag laws, which would allow law enforcement to temporarily take guns away from a person that a judge deems to be a risk to themself or others. Proposed legislation seeking to establish red flaw laws in Michigan have not yet been approved, and are still making their way through the Legislature.
Contrary to some rhetoric, red flag laws don’t seek to take away guns from responsible gun owners. In fact, experts say that generally speaking, the solution to gun violence isn’t taking guns away from responsible owners at all.
“It’s about preventing people who have access who should not,” said Dr. Patrick Carter, co-director of the Firearm Injury Prevention Center at the University of Michigan.
Specifically, red flag laws are meant to protect a gun owner and/or others around them if that owner is considered dangerous. Whether the gun violence looks like a mass shooting, interpersonal violence or suicide, red flag laws have the potential to keep a person in distress or crisis from accessing a deadly weapon.
That thought process also carries over into background checks, which have only been required when purchasing a handgun in Michigan. New legislation signed into law last week will establish background checks for all gun purchases, including long guns and rifles.
It is argued that more (and more thorough) background checks can help prevent people with bad intentions from legally purchasing a firearm, especially those with criminal and domestic violence histories.
On a different note, the push for more secure gun storage grew after the 2021 Oxford High School shooting, in which a then-student opened fire during school hours, murdering four students and injuring seven other people. Prosecutors argued that if the shooter’s parents had locked up the handgun in their home, the shooter wouldn’t have been able to access it so easily and bring it to school to carry out the shooting.
As gun violence happens more often among children, particularly younger children who have easy access to a firearm in their home, officials believe requiring gun owners to safely store firearms will help keep them out of children’s hands.
Generally, one of the biggest factors contributing to gun violence in the U.S. is how easily accessible firearms are to the public, experts say. There are literally more guns than there are people who live in the United States, which has the highest civilian gun ownership rate of any country in the world.